"You're not supposed to make phony dollar bills either," he says. "I say wines...mass-produced have been known to use those methods. I don't say they are using it."
"That is just all scare tactics," counters James Wolpert, chairman of the department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis. "To go down this road that says those guys are poisoning you with their products so buy ours because we don't poison you isn't a good thing to hear. Since they're saying that European wines are better, that aims directly at California's large producers...it's libelous."
Libelous, perhaps. But is Tony's retail strategy illegal? It certainly doesn't violate any law to charge whatever price the market will bear, especially if through hard work and clever marketing you've unearthed a customer base willing to pay it. "The kicker on this is everybody knows he's doing it," says a Dallas wine salesperson. "He's been doing it for years...the question is what's up with the people that buy into that. That's really more a story about Dallas than anything else."
Still, does dispensing false information to justify inflated prices violate Texas law? According to Lou Bright, general counsel of The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas alcoholic beverage code has a rule stating that advertising may not be false or misleading in any respect. But he says he can't determine if Tony's retail materials and practices run afoul of that rule.
Monzain says any questions about his business practices amount to little more than persecution. "Again are you following up on Vichy collaborators or are you following up on finding out facts for yourself?" he asks, alluding to the French client government during WWII that collaborated with the Nazis. "This is basically a McCarthy witch hunt...Would we have 83,000 customers if all of those things were being done? I mean, some of those people would be real dumb to buy from us."